I have mixed feelings on cause businesses, which I define as a company that relies heavily on a social mission to ring up sales. I wrote about one of these companies last fall.
Project 7 is betting that something as mundane as chewing gum will succeed because it’s all about helping others first. . . . So taste, cost and placement near the rest of the candy is all the same. But this gum benefits a variety of good causes that feed the hungry, heal the sick, and save the earth. The can’t-miss cause packaging says it all.
The challenge with cause businesses isn’t questionable intentions. These entrepreneurs want to harness capitalism and consumerism to change the world. I admire that. What’s debatable is whether that’s the best way to get good works done. While there are notable exceptions, I’ve always thought the best way for a business to help a cause is to be a great business first. It’s like when you’re flying, and they tell you that in an emergency you should first put on your own oxygen mask before helping other passengers with theirs. It seems counterintuitive, but starting with others can hurt more than it helps.
Cause businesses are risky business. Still, you have to admire the people who are embracing this higher calling. Here are three cause businesses I admire for putting others first.
Banking with a charitable twist. When customers set up an online savings account with ableBanking they get $25 to give to any 501(c)(3) nonprofit of their choice, plus an additional $2.50 annually for every $1,000 they keep on-account. ableBanking keeps expenses low by having no physical branches or costly advertising campaigns, which in turn, provides higher rates, and no fees for customers. Also, depositors, not bank executives, make the giving decisions.
With summer here it’s time for my favorite iced tea drink: Tevolution. As the tagline says: Twist. Sip. Give. Too bad I can only buy it when I‘m in Washington D. C. and Los Angeles, the two places where it’s sold. Tevolution has partnered with four nonprofits, which customers can donate to via SMS text when they enter the unique code on each bottle.
I love when ordinary people do good things. That’s the case with two do-gooders in Washington, D. C. who are raising money to start Cause, a “philanthropub” that will donate 100% of its profits to nonprofits. To kick-off the effort, the founders of Cause are raising money to buy the kitchen equipment they’ll need. While Cause isn’t an operating cause business like ableBanking and Tevolution are, more entrepreneurs are throwing a line out to test the appeal of these social business models.
Like many ordinary businesses, some cause businesses will fail. But the ones that do well will also do good. They deserve our admiration, patience and support.